Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Winner for First Food Truck Pod in Portland Metro West Side is...


Aloha! Food truck pods are a big deal over in Portland downtown and East Side but west of the Tualatin Mountains cities have been mulling over regulations which are keeping the very popular trend out of places like Beaverton. While that goes on a property owner over by Big Lots off of Tualatin Valley Highway has beaten everyone and at this time has four trucks in place with room for one more. If there is another permanent food truck pod on the West Side please comment with it's location. So far this is the only one I have found.

 Complete with covered seating it's clear this is a legit set-up, not just some trucks pulling up for a few hours.

Two of the trucks offer more dessert type items. Frosty Ribbons was closed for the day, probably because it was a bit cold and raining a little.

The other trucks offered more Mexican fare although this one did seem to have some traditional food truck items.

I can't speak as to how the food tastes but Mexico Lindo did have customers even in the not so great weather. I'm going to have to check out their menu.

 Outside of the pod and closer to the street is El Canaronaso. Not open but I got the impression they are more about seafood. I am tempted by this. There is a sixth truck over near 185th called Ely's which also offers Mexican food.

However I was looking for something sweet and I found it at Get Your Waffle On. It is located at the food cart pod towards the back.

With a clever baseball concept they serve up waffles with various toppings but also are happy to customize.

I ordered the Fall Classic which was a pumpkin spice waffle with syrup, whipped cream and pecans. Very delicious. I'm looking forward to seeing their holiday offerings.

Some of the trucks have been there for a while but it's looking more like a real pod now. They are looking for at least one more truck so hopefully it will be something original that will add to the space. I don't know if there is an actual address for the location but this is what Google maps gives for that area: 18649 SW Alexander, Aloha, Oregon between SW 187th and SW 185th.

It will be interesting to see how this goes. I do think the West Side needs more variety and more original restaurants. There are scattered food trucks throughout the West Side but none with a permanent location so they can be open full time or with several trucks to offer a choice in one place. I think the time is right for an area that keeps growing. Clearly Portland's food trucks show that they can co-exist with other eateries and even enhance an area's appeal for people who want to eat out. Given the number that have succeeded and moved into brick and mortar locations in Portland, it's worth allowing permanent locations for food trucks. Beaverton has space not being used downtown. Maybe it's time to do something good there.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nodoguro Does Yoshoku Fast Food the Slow Way

It may be in the past but there is good reason to relive the fun that was Nodoguro's take on Japanese Fast Food. Once again the talents of Team Nodoguro were very much in evidence. I say team because while Chef Ryan Roadhouse is the star, his wife Elena not only is expert hostess and server but also creates so much of the decor for Nodoguro each month along with her father. The other part of that team is Mark Wooten who besides growing much of the specialty produce at Phantom Rabbit Farm on the West Side also is there every night as sous chef.

Entering the restaurant one was greeted by clever plays on fast food restaurant images. Fast food in Japan is part of yoshoku, food that originated outside of Japan but got a Japanese spin in order to make it more palatable to Japanese tastes. What Nodoguro did for November was to take that food back to the US and give it another spin. Bringing it into being as slow food.

We were greeted with decor that included a "menu board" complete with pictures in case you weren't sure what the menu items were.

Each place setting came with a red tray, utensils and our own "happy meal" bag. All the diners were amused by this including the lovely ladies Laura, Gretchen and Jenn who sat at the table with me.

Inside was our toy and a bit of candy. Nice to get a tiny mikan since it's a popular fruit in Japan in the winter.

This night was special because Chef Ryan Roadhouse was being honored by Portland Monthly as their choice for Rising Star Chef of 2014. Portland Monthly's Karen Brooks spoke about Nodoguro and Ryan and then presented him a well deserved plaque. Nice to see talent and creativity recognized. Considering this is Portland, it takes a lot to stand out.

While Portland Monthly was presenting the dinner the menu was the same as the others for November. The difference was the inclusion of three paired drinks in the price.

Honors completed we set into to our first course of crab, bread and butter. I did not catch all of what was said in reference to this dish as part of Japanese fast food but I know that croquettes were probably one of the first real "fast foods" in Japan. Different ingredients like fish, potato and crab were breaded and then deep fried. Vendors and small shops sold them to people who did not have time to cook a lot of food so they became a popular staple starting around 1900. I'm not sure if this was the inspiration or if it was a take on bread and butter sandwiches which were also popular in Japan. However Ryan's wonderful dungeness crab coated with a butter sauce and lightly dusted with bread crumbs was a great way to start off the evening. It also reflected the theme of translating fast cooked food into slow cooked food.

Next up was soy cured ocean trout sashimi with dots of Oregon wasabi. The trout was cured in ponzu, soy sauce, mirin and sake. Elena spoke about how this dish was a representation of wartime food. Many fish normally part of the Japanese diet prior to the war were no longer available so fish like ocean trout were used more often. For me, this was excellent sashimi which was not just a replacement fish.

One of the most creative translations of fast food into slow food were the tofu nuggets with special sauce. No breading or frying for these nuggets. Topped with a bit of katsuobushi (bonito flakes), paired with fresh uni and flavored with dashi and aged shoyu (soy sauce) this wasn't something you would find at your local drive-through. I think Chef Roadhouse likes uni because it's made an appearance at all three of the dinners I have experienced.

Tonight we had a pairing of three drinks with our meal. First up was a 2012 Oregon Pinot Gris from Fossil and Fawn. Followed by a very nice jumai sake. I liked having less drinks since I do have to drive over a bridge or two to get home. I know not everyone drinks a lot and the three glasses worked really well for me.

While I was hoping for a recreation of a Mos Shrimp Sandwich, Chef Ryan's Fillet o Fish was just as good. They served up a yuan yaki Sablefish (black cod) with a special tartar sauce which was nicely seasoned with fresh dill and tiny fish roe. The ladies at the table loved this dish.

I don't remember any fast food restaurants serving sukiyaki when I visited Japan, but I know it's a really popular dish. I think in part because everyone can participate in making it round the dining table. Also chocolate seems to becoming more popular to use beyond sweets and actually was a limited item for dipping french fries in at fast food franchise Lotteria. While that didn't go over so well there, it definitely did at Nodoguro as part of his sukiyaki. This version combined thinly sliced wagyu beef, purple skinned potatoes raised by Mark Wooten at Phantom Rabbit Farm, a bit of miso, egg sauce since egg is used to dip sukiyaki meat into and of course dark chocolate. This dish was so delicious! I rarely eat beef but if it was served up like this I'd fail that.

Speaking of Mark Wooten, here he is with Chef Roadhouse plating up our food. I asked Mark about being a part of Nodoguro and he said he loves it. It definitely shows in everything they do.

Our third drink pairing for the night was this muscat. I think because the dishes were yoshoku inspired having wine with the food worked. I normally prefer sake or beer if eating Japanese food.

Now for what was probably the most insane dish of the night although most people didn't know what went into it. Ryan Roadhouse's tribute to Coco Ichiban. Just check my links if you want to know more about Coco Ichiban. It's one of many curry restaurants in Japan and is well known for it's very delicious curry. But wait, this isn't curry, it's a salad. Ryan used in-season persimmon, miyoga ginger bud, and if I remember correctly Phantom Rabbit gobo (burdock). What makes this insane is that Ryan cooked curry, reduced it down, clarified it and used that essence to make a vinaigrette. Even if you have cooked curry from roux you know this is no simple task. I know of a number of people that would love that vinaigrette if he ever decides to bottle it.

We weren't done yet. Seeing there was a Yoshinoya bowl on the menu I was a little worried. But no fear for this one was topped with delicious seared Bonito, onion, mizuna and spicy soy on top of very fine rice. I forgot to ask what kind of rice that was.

Glad to see the Chef Ryan Roadhouse signature dashimaki tamago. Always good.

 Finally at our dessert which was a remaking of the ever popular Kit Kat. If you are wondering about my Kit Kat experience just check my links. Which reminds me I have a few more (like several) I should post about. So in comparison to that how did this slow food version stack up? Nestle you need to do a coconut milk chocolate Kit Kat ASAP. This was that good. Vanilla waffer cookie topped with chocolate with toasted soybeans sprinkled over with mounds of whipped coconut milk and chocolate. It was amazingly good. I need to find out how to make that whipped coconut milk because I'd happily use it in place of whipped cream for everything.

At the end of the dinner. We were given coffee and a little white box. Inside was this cute little hamburger omonju. Omonju are Japanese sweets which originated as part of tea ceremonies to be eaten before drinking tea in order to balance the bitter taste from the tea. 

This darling version had a wonderful cinnamon flavor and looked just like a tiny cheese burger. I think the very talented Tomoe creates these and we are very lucky to enjoy them.

Sadly it's the end of November so there are no more dates for "MacDonalds" at Nodoguro. But you can bet there will be another inspirational theme for December and the months to come. Plus Ryan is starting to offer limited omakase sushi nights. If that interests you I suggest signing up for Nodoguro's emails because the ones for December sold out quickly. They also will email information for the theme each month and a link to make reservations (when they open up) if you want to experience something very unique and original.

Nodoguro's website is here
and Nodoguro is located at 3737 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

Monday, November 17, 2014

An Autumn Harvest Vegan Dinner at Departure

Many moons ago I was vegetarian. It was tough finding places that served vegetarian food and even tougher finding vegetarian food that wasn't seasoned with bell peppers. But times have changed and so I decided to see just how much by attending Departure's Autumn Harvest Vegan Dinner created by Chef Gregory Gourdet.
First up were the vegan drinks. Root Down consisted of Cazadores Blanco tequila, red beet and ginger juice, agave and fresh lime. Topped with a mango slice. Not overly sweet but really nice combination with the tequila.
The Pioneer made up with Jim Beam rye whiskey, averna, apple shrub and apple juice. Thin apple slices for a garnish. Very smooth and ever since drinking this I have had a hankering for whiskey in apple juice.
Our first course arrived and it's the one that got me wanting to go to this dinner. Onion and mushroom tart. Almond flour crust. Rosemary, ginger and charred peppers added even more flavor. I admit to removing a few chili peppers from this. I liked this dish so much I ended up making tiny onion and mushroom tarts a night ago.
 Roasted multicolored carrots and semi-dried beets in a carrot-coriander broth and pomegranate syrup. Amazing how changing up the simple carrot can bring a dish to a new level.
 Another amazing thing was the view behind me. Looking out towards the Willamette River.
A take on a winning menu item at Departure. Fried brussels sprouts and sunchokes. Smoked garlic, yuzu kosho, pickled chilies and shiso. I've only recently been introduced to sunchokes and each time I love them.
 Time to take it up a notch with the plating. Spiced roasted squash with cranberry, kale juice, pumpkin butter and creamy cashews. Filling and quite delicious. Chef Gourdet is a master of flavors and this dish represented his talent for that. I say flavors because of instead of mixing everything together into a homogenous mess, one can find different tastes in one dish. The secret is having them complement each other and work together.
 We were then served this green juice which we guessed was kale.
Could South America be in the future for Chef Gourdet's Compass Series? Sweet potato, dried chili and chocolate, similar to a mole and definitely reflective of South America cooking. Seasoned with pumpkin seeds, ginger and cumin. This was for me the spiciest dish of the night but I did enjoy the perfectly cooked sweet potatoes.
I'm going to say it again, Chef Gourdet knows deserts and does them very well, serving up a Persimmon and Huckleberry cheesecake. I thought coconut milk was used for the cheese cake and it worked really well. With delicious Kaffir lime sherbert sprinkled with tasted like matcha green tea. I don't usually eat desert when dining out but if they all were as good as what I've had at Departure then I'd probably just eat deserts for dinner.

Departure is up top at  525 SW Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon 97204
Their website is here.

Chef Gregory Gourdet is continuing his excellent Compass series with Haiti as the theme for next month. You can check in with Departure at their Facebook or Twitter accounts to see when to make reservations.

Very glad I had a chance to try another special meal by Gregory Gourdet. No surprise that he is one of the Top Chefs in Portland.

Let me add the beautiful produce was provided by Groundwork Organics. Always should remember where our food comes from and the hard work that goes into growing it.
Groundwork Organics website is here

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mushroom Weather


The weather this year must have been great for mushrooms like these I saw at Rood Bridge Park the other day. Seeing so many like this made me a little hungry.

These may be Horse Mushrooms or Agaricus Arvensis. They were so large and did not have any yellow staining.

Horse Mushrooms are edible fungi but since I'm no expert I was not about to find out.

Another day another place and more mushroom bounty.

Although these mushrooms are not so good to eat. Amanita Muscaria or Fly Agaric mushrooms.

I'm always surprised when I see these because each time I have it's at a public parking lot. Not the best place for something like this. Supposedly after parboiling they are not poisonous but I will pass on trying it.

These too were reaching an impressive size.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Masu Sushi in Portland March 2013

I never know what to expect when I go to a new place to eat. Reviews can be read but they all come from the perspective of that specific diner and their likes, dislikes and their personal dining history. It's even more difficult when it comes to Japanese food. So I enter each place wondering if I will find something that I can add to my personal this is good list or another generic bento/sushi roll shop that permeates the American dining scene.

I don't remember why I was in Portland one afternoon but I do remember it was warmer than I expected. And that I wanted decent sushi and that I wanted to try one of Portland's many Japanese restaurants. So I ended up at Masu. As the only diner. Don't take that as a bad thing, it was the middle of the afternoon when most people don't have a meal.

Since my objective was sushi I sat at the sushi counter. I like being able to look at the fresh fish and sometimes chat with the sushi chef. To me this is part of having good sushi. I was served a complimentary bowl of octopus with cucumber, Tako Su or Tako no Sumomo. I usually pass on octopus but this time I did try it.

However I was here for nigiri. So up first was hamachi (yellowtail) and sake (salmon). And just looking at the photo again I know this was excellent fish. The hamachi was buttery and the sake was one of two wild caught salmons being offered. Seriously take wild caught over farmed when you are having sushi. There are so many good reasons why it's better. So far I was very pleased with the offerings.

Another temptation offered up was dungeness crab served gunkan style. I also remember this. Light and delicious. I watched the sushi chefs preparing the fish for the nightly diners while enjoying my meal and learned a little of the head sushi chef's experience with making Japanese food.

A bit of unagi or anago which I can't resist. And the one way to see how good a sushi chef is, try their tamago. Both are sweet so I like to pair them towards the end of a meal. I very much enjoyed this. I could tell the quality of the preparation of the rice and the uniqueness of the tamagoyaki added to the enjoyment. I could tell this sushi chef was serious about Japanese food.

Time for maguro and I could tell this was nice fish again. There are differences with maguro besides there being different parts of a tuna that are served as different types of sushi. This was very good fish. Speaking with the chef he told me of his time working in Japan at a restaurant there. I know there is a difference in the focus of cooking at better restaurants in Japan. Quality and doing something right even if you have to repeat it over and over. Some decide it's not worth it and and some take it to heart. Definitely not the first catagory at Masu.

 Last up was fresh sake (salmon) wild caught out of the Puget Sound if I remember correctly. It's things like this which differentiate sushi restaurants. Sushi is not something that you can skip quality on and have good food. That plus having a head chef that knows Japanese food, not just basic recipes but the ideas that go along with it. Turns out that great chef at Masu was Ryan Roadhouse. My surprise later on was finding out he was the person behind the new Japanese pop-up Nodoguro. Definitely a good surprise since not only is he serving up excellent Japanese food but has a great team of people working with him. I'm happy to have found two very good Japanese restaurants in one seating.

Masu is at 406 SW 13th Avenue, Portland, Oregon

More good news is that Ryan has started omakase service at Nodoguro. So far it's a couple nights a month and they sell out fast. If you want to get your sushi on follow Ryan Roadhouse and Nodoguro on Twitter or sign up for their email newsletter. Nodoguro's website is here.